In the Loop

Matthews vs. Miller…Entourage's Female Appeal…Game Show Juggernaut
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Dueling Egos

Our favorite unscripted moment of Republican Convention coverage was Sen. Zell Miller's (D-Ga.) meltdown on MSNBC'sHardball. Host Chris Matthews drilled Miller about his dig at freedom of the press in his convention speech. "You wanted to get an applause line against the media at a conservative convention," Matthews shouted. Miller was outraged. "Get out of my face," the senator barked. "I wish we lived in a day when we could challenge a person to a duel."

A duel? The U.S. hasn't had a high-profile duel since 1804, when Vice President Aaron Burr killed his political rival, former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, in Weehawken, N.J.

At the time, duels were common among "bitter, failed politicians who were trying to rehabilitate their political reputations," says Ron Chernow, author of the best-selling Alexander Hamilton (Penguin Press). But it's another thing for a senator to challenge a journalist to such an aristocratic contest.

"Zell Miller didn't realize that, in historical terms, he was paying Chris Matthews a compliment," adds Chernow. "A duel implied social equality."

In a real-life match-up, Chernow favors the hardballer. Yet both, we suspect, would be inept at handling old-fashioned pistols. "You need strong hands and wrists to aim them accurately," Chernow says. "It's interesting to imagine Zell and Chris squaring off with a couple of Saturday-night specials."

Ladies' Night

HBO's wild comedy Entourage isn't just good, it's tame. During its first few episodes, skin was a no-show amid the hot parties and one-night stands. And we're not the only ones who noticed. "Here is a show about four twentysomethings living the high life in Hollywood and scamming hot chicks all the time," says a viewer, in an Internet bulletin board. "And no gratuitous nudity! What the hell are they thinking?"

Like hunky character Vincent Chase, they were thinking about women—female viewers, specifically. HBO insiders say the network was deliberately restrained early on to attract women to the male-oriented show. It drew Alicia Cathers, 33, of Tilford, Pa., who cites Entourage's softer content as part of its appeal. "Some HBO shows have been disturbing," she sighs. "You could have just told me what happened."

Entourage creator Doug Ellin admitted he wanted the show to be "as realistic as possible and capture a time and a place." But nudity and explicit sex are at a bare minimum.

Jennings in Jeopardy?

Ken Jennings, the million-dollar Mormon, returns to Jeopardy for the new season, kicking off Sept. 6. A source familiar with the show says he extends his winning streak through October. Jennings, who amassed $1.3 million in his 38 consecutive Jeopardy wins, also catapulted the show to stellar summer ratings, up 60% from 2003.

But how much Jennings can America take? As Alex Trebek struggles to invent new chitchat, is it time to root for a new egghead? No way, says game-show guru Steve Beverly, Webmaster of "They've found a juggernaut here."

But it's too late for Brian Weikle.

The Minneapolis native won $149,200 in April 2003 before producers amended a longstanding policy to terminate contestants after five consecutive wins. "The [producers] have put themselves in a tough spot. They need to find somebody who can beat him," says Weikle, whose record one-day win of $52,000 was shattered by Jennings' $75,000 in last season's finale. Muses Weikle: "It's like they've created a monster."